Explaining Gerrit Cole's opt-out clause that could change Yankees' offseason

2024 New York Yankees Spring Training
2024 New York Yankees Spring Training / New York Yankees/GettyImages

Most plugged-in fans know Yankees ace Gerrit Cole can opt out of his contract after the 2024 season, but many don't appear to be aware that the Yankees ultimately still control their ace's fate. They'd also be foolish not to come to the obvious unified decision here.

Cole's current contract, signed after the 2019 season (and just before what turned out to be a 60-game pandemic season instead of a glorious introduction, because of course), runs through 2028 if the right-hander does not trigger his option at the end of the 2024 campaign.

Cole, like most superstar starters, will more than likely "test the market" -- and, if nothing else, he'll probably do so to put pressure on the front office.

Unlikely most opt-out clauses, though, Cole will not automatically hit the open market if he pulls that trigger. All Hal Steinbrenner has to do is tack another year onto Cole's current deal -- at $36 million -- to keep him in the Bronx through 2029.

Yankees ace Gerrit Cole's opt-out clause can be nullified by Hal Steinbrenner

Is there a chance that Steinbrenner shies away from making an additional financial commitment, deferring an additional payment until five years from today, when Cole will be 38-turning-39? Sure. It's always possible. He's got Juan Soto's long-term pact to worry about, after all.

But the Yankees opted out of paying Dodgers starter Yoshinobu Yamamoto more total money than Cole's guaranteed cash just a few months ago. The lifelong Yankee fan has become this generation's rock, the CC Sabathia-esque figure imported to change the franchise's trajectory and impart his wisdom on all the days he isn't inducing whiffs and wagging fingers. Would Steinbrenner really throw all that away, with the power entirely in his hands? Doubtful.

The Yankees need more Gerrit Coles, not fewer. Adding an extra season five years down the line is a small price to pay for necessary stability in 2025, 2026 and 2027, seasons that should all comprise their incumbent ace's prime. It's only a difficult decision for an ownership group that has trouble comprehending their baseline level of spending increasing slightly, commensurate with profits. Steinbrenner knew a quote-unquote "tough call" had to be made when Aaron Judge hit free agency last winter. This call? Much easier.

Apologies in advance to rival fans who included "stealing Cole" on their 2024-25 offseason primers. It could happen, but likely won't. Cole can't depart on his own.